Ten promising Liberian businesses have been awarded substantial grants of US$40,000 each from the esteemed Growth Accelerator program.
The program, which is heavily supported by the UNDP, provides promising entrepreneurs with mentorship, financial support, and other resources that are needed to scale up business operations.
Under this initiative, MSMEs owners have to submit proposals outlining their growth plans, financial needs, and potential for development and then compete with each other for the funds.
This year's winners, who are part of the third cohort, were drawn from a pool of diverse representations across various sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, and walked away with US$40,000.
“For this year, we received a total of 177 applications for the MSMEs and clean and renewable energy cohorts,” Luther Jeke, CEO of iCampus, an implementing partner of the Growth Accelerator program, claimed.
“My advice to these small businesses that are fortunate to have won this grant is to use the money for its intended purpose,” Jeke warned. “That is, scale and grow your business. If you need more human resources, employ more people; if you need to buy more machinery and equipment, buy them.”
According to Jeke, the Growth Accelerator program has over the last three years disbursed a total of US$1.3 million to small businesses with the sole intent of helping MSMEs scale up and grow.
He noted that the program is expected to also benefit 10 agriculture cooperatives — with benefitting US$40,000 — bringing the total expenditure for 2023 cohorts to US$600,000.
“18 businesses were selected in 2021 and 13 in 2022; each of them received US$40,000, which is about US$720,000 and when added to the $600,000, amounts to US$1.3 million,” Jeke added.
Meanwhile, Abraham Tumbey, the UNDP Coordinator for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development, has warned the Growth Accelerator grantees to use the fund for its intended purpose.
Tumbey noted that before any tranche of the fund is released, a grantee will have to submit a detailed “value-for-money assessment form, which is intended to avoid issues of diversion, which they have experienced in the past.”
“This year, before UNDP gives out their money to the selected winners, there will be a detailed value-for-money assessment from them. So, those of you who won, we want you to take this as a challenge that the Growth Accelerator is not free money, but it is there to encourage you to do what serves you best.
“If you came here and presented a very good proposal, which won you the grant, you cannot change it. This would not work because it is going to be difficult. Every year, we intensify the processes based on the lessons learned from the previous year,” Tumbey said. “If you win this grant to buy balloons, you will buy balloons; you will not buy pumpkins. So we are going to be very strict on that.”
Earlier in remarks, Louis Kuukpen, Resident Representative AI, UNDP Liberia, said the Government of Liberia, in partnership with UNDP, has been working to address the issue of employment generation through a number of economic policies aimed at expanding MSMEs, the private sector, and entrepreneurship.
UNDP, according to him, recognized that support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is one area that can enhance sustainable economic development for reducing poverty and welcomes the participation of all our development partners in this important space.
Kuukpen said Growth Accelerator, in its third year of running, is expected to support more than 20 Liberian MSMEs, including five renewable energy MSMEs, five general MSMEs, and more than 10 agriculture cooperatives.
Additionally, he noted, UNDP is glad to see Liberian entrepreneurs stepping up to seize opportunities in various ways, which shows a positive sign of a future where Liberians can drive their local economy.